Friday, September 23, 2011

Shakespeare looks down on you.

When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.
King Lear Scene VI

Fools and foolish deeds seem to be very common in Shakespeare. Nobody really seems to be that intelligent. Many of Will's plays tell a story of a noble or royal family, someone of the upper crust of society, and how silly they are. The Hamlet family is the most dysfunctional family I've ever seen. From fratricide to incest, murder, deceit. They are in serious need of a therapist. This is not just one example. In A Winters Tale there are two royal families who do all sorts of stupid things, who are full of irrational thinking and silly impulses. Was Shakespeare making commentary about his contemporary royalty? Was he showing the world just how stupid and foolish the upper class was?

I thought this might be the case until I saw how Shakespeare depicted normal people. The lower classes. They aren't too bright either. At times they seem even more foolish or vice-ridden than the upper classes. Shakespeare even takes their speech out of poetry and makes it common prose. 

O, I am fortune's fool!

It seems to me that Shakespeare just thinks everyone is an idiot, and his plays were his way of telling everyone to shape up. He may have exaggerated the idiocy of people in his works to help get his point across, but it seems that his works were his commentary on society.

True, a story wouldn't be fun if everyone did the right thing, and everyone was a rational calm individual. In As You Like It its says "I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad: and to travel for it too!" Perhaps Shakespaere thinks it is better to learn from the mistakes and silly antics of the fake characters in the play (and be amused at the same time), than for society to make these mistakes themselves and regret it.  

Shakespeare looks at society as a stage of fools, and he uses his own stage to try and educate people to a higher way.
I look down on you all...


  1. This comment seems especially relevant in light of our classroom discussion on Shakespeare's conservative social mores. Concealing his commentary in an entertaining play would be an effective way to get the point across though...almost a real-life version of what Hamlet does to Claudius with the play-within-a-play.

  2. Oooh good points. I like how Shakespeare layers his point in Hamlet. He's getting his point across by putting it in a play where there is a character that gets his point across by putting it in a play. It's like . . . playception.

  3. So when someone dies in the play, within a play, do they go to limbo?